But when it comes to cooking, I'm quite the opposite. 'Oh! We're out of flour?,' I'll realise halfway through baking something. 'Never mind, I'm sure that oat flour will work instead!' I'll reply (to myself, because it's totally normal to have mini conversation with yourself while you bake). And it was that complete and blatant disregard for recipes that caused the first attempt at these muesli bars (attempt #1) to fail.
Attempt #1 all began with my sudden desire to make a batch of no added sugar muesli bars. Had I ever made muesli bars before? No. Did I have even the slightest idea what proportion dry to liquid they would need? No. Was I going to let those things stop me? Absolutely no. So I invented an impromtu recipe by combining a breakfast cookie recipe, a sugar-containing muesli bar recipe and some random whims that struck me along the way.
As it turns out, the intention for something to become a muesli bar alone doesn't make it one. Oops! So instead of the lovely, neat bars I had invisioned fitting into the perfect photos I'd imagined, I ended up with a gooey (yet delicious) mess. Now, you may be wondering why on earth I'd write a post all about a failed muesli bar recipe. Well, lucky for you, this story has a happy ending.
That ending is attempt #2. This time, having learnt my lesson, I followed an actual recipe (well admittedly, I subbed out some nuts for the oats, but that doesn't count right?). These muesli bars are perfectly shaped, as well as absolutely delicious and completely nutrient packed. They're remarkably sweet from the dates and banana, which compliments the strong spicy flavour perfectly. In fact, I think these are the best muesli bars I've ever had, which is saying something, because I love my muesli bars!
Date and Banana Muesli Bars
Based on: http://www.healthfulpursuit.com/2013/01/grain-free-chai-granola-bars/
Nuts, Seeds and Fruit:
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 cups mixed nuts/seeds, roughly ground
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 cup flax seed, roughly ground
1/3 cup chia seed, roughly ground
150 grams medjool dates, pitted (approx. 10 dates or 140 grams of pitted dates)
1/2 cup almond butter*
1 banana, mashed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1. Preheat oven to 180˚C (325˚F) and line a rectangle pan with parchment paper draping over either side for easy lifting, The size of pan will dictate the thickness of your bars (I used a 20x30cm)
2. Place medjool dates in a bowl and cover with hot water. Leave to soak for 30 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
3. Roughly grind the nuts and seeds. There can be large and small pieces throughout the mix, just make sure there are pieces no bigger than the size of your pinky nail.
4. Combine mixed nuts and seeds with oats, and sultanas in a large bowl. Set aside.
5. Mash soaked dates with a potato masher or fork until smooth. Add banana and mash together. Then, stir in almond butter and spices
6. Combine binding ingredients with the nut and seed mixture either with your hands, stand mixer or hand mixer. Mix until fully incorporated.
7. Press into prepared pan and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until edges begin to get golden. Remove from the oven, lift from the pan and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
8. Cut to your desired size, then continue to cool until they've cooled entirely.
*It's super easy to make your own almond butter, just place almonds and a little unflavoured oil in a food processor and blend until smooth (about 10 minutes)